6 Tips for Maintaining Your Wood-Burning Fireplace

maintaining-wood-burning-fireplace

With a little care and maintenance your fireplace will provide many evenings of comfort, warmth and ambiance during the cooler weather.  Here are 6 Tips for Maintaining Your Wood-Burning Fireplace to help you keep it in tiptop shape.

  1. Once a year, have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a licensed or certified Chimney Sweep. They should do an outside inspection of the chimney bricks, mortar, and chimney cap. They should then inspect the inside of the firebox, flue, and interior of the chimney. They should also clean away the built up soot and creosote, which can be a fire hazard if not cleaned away regularly. This annual inspection should be done every year, even if you only use your fireplace a few times.
  2. When you clean your firebox, make sure the ashes are completely cold, otherwise you risk melting your garbage can or catching your garbage on fire. Use a fireplace broom and shovel for larger pieces of charcoal or unburnt wood, and a shop vac to remove the ash and dust. Use gloves and a dust mask for safety. Glass fire doors can be cleaned with a soft cloth and water to remove smudges and soot.
  3. Clean out the firebox whenever the ash and debris reaches 1 inch below the log grate, as a layer of ash along the bottom of the firebox doesn’t deter airflow for a fire, but ash that comes closer to the burning logs does impede airflow and burn rate.
  4. Keep flammable materials such as carpets, curtains, and furniture at least 3 feet from the fireplace during use. It’s a fire hazard to use the warmth of the fire to dry out or warm flammable items such as mittens, socks, shoes, and slippers, no matter how tempting the warmth is. Keep flammable items such as holiday décor and wood mantels and panels at least 12 inches away from the edges of the firebox.
  5. Try to burn seasoned hardwood, not “green” wood that hasn’t been seasoned for at least 6 months. Hardwood is preferable to softer woods like pine or poplar. Green wood and soft wood don’t burn as thoroughly or at as high a temperature, and therefore deposit more soot and creosote on the chimney lining as they burn. If soot and creosote build up to at least an eighth of an inch, the deposits can catch fire, causing the chimney tiles to crack and damaging the cap, guard, and even catch the roof on fire.
  6. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, and change the batteries at the beginning and end of Daylight Savings Time or any other date that is easy for you to consistently remember.